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Cutting to the Core

Abstinence programs miss some students

Yakima County has a problem.

And it's teen pregnancies.

Yakima County ranks second in the number of teen pregnancies in the state of Washington, with Adams County coming in first.

With the new school year upon us, there is a question in the air. How many teenagers will get pregnant this year? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is too many.

There have been improvements over the years. In 2000, there were 109.4 pregnant girls between the ages of 15 and 19 per 1,000 girls in that age group in Yakima County. In 2004 that number had gone down to 91.6 pregnant girls per 1,000. A 15 percent drop in five years.

That's a good number, even though Yakima County still has the second highest number of pregnant teenagers. I think a big reason for this drop is the abstinence programs taught in schools.

It's a great idea. More than one person has pointed out to me that abstinence is the only sure way to prevent unwanted pregnancy or STDs. That's true.

I don't argue with that and I think these programs should be taught aggressively. My only problem is that, even though abstinence is the only way to prevent these things, not everybody chooses abstinence.

When you're between the ages of 15 and 19, things are tough. Feelings and desires are pretty strong at that age and it doesn't help with sex being used to sell everything from clothes to cars. Teenagers are constantly being bombarded with images of sexuality, so it's no surprise some experiment, and some of those experimenting get pregnant or end up with an STD.

I think to aid the abstinence programs some sort of safe sex program should be offered as well. This way, some of the kids who choose not to practice abstinence can still be educated in other ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies or STDs.

In 2004, Washington state's average of teenage pregnancies in the 15- to 19-year old age group was 51.7 pregnant girls per 1,000 girls. Until Yakima County's number is close to that, I think every available option should be taught to these kids.

Abstinence should be taught and students made to understand this method is the only SAFE method, but in case they don't choose that way, they should have a back-up plan.

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